- - Sunday, February 19, 2012

SOUTH KOREA

Live-fire drills go ahead despite North’s threats

SEOUL — South Korean troops began a live-fire artillery exercise Monday near the disputed Yellow Sea border with North Korea, despite the North’s threats of retaliation, officials said.

Military officials said the “routine” drill of one to two hours, their second this year, would involve self-propelled howitzers, Vulcan cannon, mortars and Cobra attack helicopters.

Military officials notified North Korea of the scheduled drill through representatives at the truce village of Panmunjom on Sunday. Hours afterward, the North’s military vowed “merciless retaliatory strikes” if any shells land in waters claimed by Pyongyang.

It said Seoul “should not forget the lesson” of the bombardment of Yeonpyeong island in November 2010, which killed four South Koreans. The North said that attack was in retaliation for a live-fire exercise that dropped shells into waters Pyongyang considers part of its maritime territory.

BRITAIN

Murdoch’s Sun on Sunday to start presses soon

LONDON — The successor to Rupert Murdoch’s shuttered News of the World newspaper will begin publication in a week’s time, a senior News Corp. executive said Sunday.

In an email to staff, News International CEO Tom Mockridge said that Mr. Murdoch himself would stay in the British capital to oversee the launch of the Sun on Sunday. Mr. Mockridge said he was sure that “every one of us will seize the opportunity to pull together and deliver a great new dawn” for the newspaper.

The Sun on Sunday will replace the top-selling News of the World, which was closed in July after revelations that members of its staff had routinely hacked into cellphone voicemail messages of celebrities, sports figures, politicians and crime victims and paid bribes to public officials to get exclusive stories. The ensuing scandal stunned Britain’s establishment, led to dozens of arrests and resignations, and has spawned a wide-ranging official inquiry into U.K. media ethics.

There has long been speculation that the Australian media tycoon intended to replace the market-leading paper with another one when the scandal faded.

NIGERIA

Five wounded in blast outside of church service

SULEJA — A bomb planted by an abandoned car exploded outside a church in the middle of a worship service Sunday near Nigeria’s capital, wounding five people amid a continuing wave of violence by a radical Islamist sect, authorities and witnesses said.

No one immediately took responsibility for the blast outside the Christ Embassy Church in Suleja, a city near the nation’s capital Abuja.

The area, however, has been targeted in the past by the sect known as Boko Haram - including the Christmas Day car bombing of a Catholic church nearby that killed at least 44 people.

The explosion happened just after 10 a.m. as the church began its service, Pastor Uyi Idugboe told journalists. Security guards at the church had noticed something suspicious by the abandoned car, prompting the pastor to call everyone inside the church before the service began, he said.

MYANMAR

Saffron Revolution monk facing new charges

YANGON — A dissident monk who helped lead Myanmar’s 2007 uprising against the government is facing new legal action, in part for allegedly breaking into monasteries sealed by the former military junta after the mass street protests five years ago, state media reported Sunday.

The case against Shin Gambira, the first since he was freed in an amnesty last month, raises concern about the new, nominally civilian government’s commitment to reform. It also raises questions about how much authorities here will tolerate dissent.

Mr. Gambira is facing charges of “squatting” illegally in a monastery shut down by the government and breaking into two others, the state-run New Light of Myanmar said.

The 33-year-old monk was one of the leaders of the so-called Saffron Revolution, a 2007 uprising led by Buddhist monks against the then-ruling military junta, which brutally crushed the protests and shut down some monasteries in the aftermath.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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